In recent months there has been a significant backlog in the processing and payment of the State maternity benefit - which has been attributed to a high turnover of staff in the Department of Social Welfare in Buncrana.
Both expectant women and women who have already given birth are affected by the backlog of the benefit, which equals €235 a week.
Although usually applying for the benefit six weeks before taking maternity leave is in good time – this has not been the case over recent months with 2,850 maternity benefit claims waiting to be processed (1,300 of whom have already commenced maternity leave).
There are approximately 18,500 such claimants in Ireland.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, one woman describes how although she applied for the benefit nine weeks before beginning maternity leave. When she followed up her application, she was told by the Department of Social Protection that it was not “possible to give an accurate date of process”.
She explains that “There’s literally nothing that’s happened since… there’s been no update, there’s been no apology regarding the delay.
“I’m in a lucky situation in that I’m going to be getting a salary while I’m on leave, but a lot of those in the private sector will be stuck. When the story first came out a lady in my work went on maternity leave. She was due to have the baby four days ago. She still hasn’t heard anything.
“It’s insane, it’s absolutely crazy, it really is.”
In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Social Protection claim that the issue in payments is due to a “a high turnover of staff in our Buncrana (Co Donegal) office which processes maternity claims”.
“We have also experienced challenges in recruiting replacement staff and once recruited it takes time for staff to be fully trained. In relation to the operational issues, a new IT system has recently been introduced and has taken time to bed in fully. The new system supports online applications and is working as planned.”
“We are extremely sorry for any worry or concern this may cause our customers… we recognise that this is not an acceptable delay.”
Six additional staff members have been taken on to tackle the backlog, and are hoping to process all applicants’ claims within three to four weeks of commencing their leave.
Applicants are encouraged to apply electronically, as postal applications can take up to six weeks to process.
To access the electronic application you can find further information by clicking here.